Employee engagement: Make every day National Employee Appreciation Day.

The first Friday in March is officially National Employee Appreciation Day (put it in your calendar now for next year if you’ve forgotten). A day when businesses openly demonstrate how much they value and appreciate their employees, taking time to say thank you for their efforts and achievements over the last 12 months. And rightly so. After all, recognition and appreciation for a job well done is something all employees deserve and, indeed, desire.

However, the need for a National Day maybe misses the point somewhat. I’m not suggesting that we should ignore it. It’s just that the need for an ‘official day’ suggests, that as businesses, we are falling short in some way of regularly recognising and rewarding the exceptional value our employees deliver on a regular basis.

Recognition, employee engagement and the bottom line

The links between recognition and employee engagement are well documented, as too are the direct contributions to the bottom line. Recognising the effort your employees make, saying thank you, feeding back on a job well done results in higher engagement levels, motivating teams and individuals to continue working hard and go the extra mile that sets businesses apart.

70% of employees are not engaged

Yet, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, 70% of employees are not engaged. UK statistics published in 2015 suggest a similar trend (albeit slightly better). Nonetheless, a worrying statistic.

Of course, this lack of engagement isn’t solely down to a lack of employee recognition initiatives. Engagement after all is not one dimensional. However it does play a big part. And as business leaders, it’s incumbent on us to respond and ensure that recognition and gratitude are given the same importance at an organisational level as employees give to them.

This means a top-down approach and a genuine commitment to recognise performance. It should form part of every organisation’s DNA. It can be as simple as taking the time to say thank you to employees, or more structured with regular rewards for employee performance, budgets allowing of course.

The power of thank you

The impact of saying ‘thank you’ should never be overlooked. Yet in the midst of dealing with the many priorities that face us each day, we can sometimes assume that people know we’re grateful for their support. As leaders we need to set the example and make sure we take the time to say thank you to our teams and individual team members on a regular basis. Additionally, make sure your managers know about your teams efforts, and encourage them to thank them the next time they are in the office. Believe me, it’s powerful. Two little words that mean so much to the person on the receiving end of them.

Big gestures are great, but small ones are just as meaningful

No doubt the social media channels will be awash with posts of how organisations are saying thank you to their employees. This is great. If your budget allows you to do something big in celebration, then fantastic. However, a word of caution. Recognition needs to be an on-going initiative, and needs to speak to the individual(s) it is meant for. And sometimes it’s the small things, like taking someone for coffee and spending some time chatting on a one to one basis, that actually leaves a bigger and better impression than grand gestures. However you choose to show your appreciation, make sure that it’s personal, genuine and not superficial.

Finally, and the real crux of this post; whilst having a national day to show our appreciation for the people that drive our businesses forward is a great initiative, we need to think about how we do this the other 364 days of the year.